Midterm grades plus one game

A report card for the first half of the season plus one game.

 

It was my intention to produce this last week at the midpoint of the season. But life got in the way of that so it is time for the midterm plus one grades for the Stanford Cardinal. In some ways, based on the 26-10 loss at Arizona State, maybe it was better for the grades to be delayed until after this very eye-opening defeat. With that said, here are my position grades based on the first seven games.

QUARTERBACK:  C+

I gave Kevin Hogan a C+ at the quarter mark and I thought it was unfair. At that point with only three games under his belt and two of them decent games against lesser foes I was thinking he might deserve more.  Seven games in I fear C+ was the right call then and the right call now. The simple fact is that in his third year as a starter Hogan has regressed.

We live in an era of college football where a 60% completion percentage is the low bar. For the season Hogan is 62%. But at Notre Dame he was 50% and at ASU he completed 48%. That just won’t get the job done on the road. He has 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions. But seven of those touchdowns came against Davis and Army. Three more came against Washington State. Against upper echelon defenses, he has one touchdown pass and that was at Washington.

Hogan has allegedly done a nice job of running the offense and getting the team into the right plays. But the bottom line is that with a running game that is struggling, and some pretty good receivers, he needs to be better than he has been. He needs better pocket awareness as demonstrated in Tempe. He needs better accuracy on the short passes. And in the last few games he has missed a few deep throws which has been his calling card. The struggles on offense are far from his alone, but in college football a great quarterback can take you a long way. Hogan needs to be better to get Stanford over the hump.

RUNNING BACKS:  B-

Honestly, I want to give this group an “incomplete.” I just have no idea what we have from these running backs. That seems to be on the coaching, which we’ll get to later. What we do know is the running game is not as good as Stanford has seen in a long time. But is that the backs fault? The numbers say Stanford rushes for 4.3 yards per carry. Not bad. Remound Wright leads the team with 60 carries and 318 yards for a 5.3 yard average. What’s wrong with those numbers? Barry Sanders checks in at 7.1 yards per carry.  Sounds like a pretty good running game to me!

Of course then you get into the reality of the situation. Wright leads the squad on touches per game at 4, 11, DNP, 14, 8, 14 and 9.  Sanders checks in with seven rushes – two, nine, three, three, seven, and four. So is the running game that bad or are the coaches just not giving enough opportunities? Kelsey Young has 34 carries. Hogan has 49. Christian McCaffrey has nine rushes. Ty Montgomery has 14. There are a lot of cooks in that backfield. The numbers say they are doing okay but the eye test says something is missing. None of the backs have broken away from the field to earn the touches, according to the coaches. Wright seems to get the most work because he is best at pass protection and the all-important power run.

I feel there are some good players in that backfield. I feel that when given an opportunity, the running backs do decently. Yet somehow seven games into the season I really don’t know much for sure about the backs or the ground attack.

RECEIVERS:  B+

I still like this group. Montgomery is a man on a mission when he gets the ball. He has 43 catches to lead the club. Devon Cajuste is a great #2 wide receiver. There is good depth and good hands behind the starters. Tight end U appears to be back with the emergence of Austin Hooper, Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada.  

The downside to this group is there are still too many dropped passes. Montgomery has superstar written all over him but he is prone to drop a ball here or there. He also doesn’t seem great at catching the ball in traffic. Get him space and he is a bear to tackle, but one-on-one versus a corner, he doesn’t come down the ball very often. With Hogan’s inconsistencies, this group needs to catch the ball when it is delivered well.

That said, there is much to build on here and maybe this is the portion of the team that Stanford needs to really focus on to reboot the offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE:  C+

Quarterbacks, runners, catchers, let’s face it, none of it matters if the offensive line doesn’t block. And the reality is that this line has been subpar compared to the high standard that has been set on The Farm the last several years. We blame the running backs for not being special, but too often the holes just haven’t been there. We get frustrated by the jumbo package that has proved unsuccessful on short yardage, and the reason is the line is not winning the battle in the trenches. We blame Hogan for inconsistency, but he is under pressure far too often.

There is some legitimate talent in this offensive line. Certainly they are heralded as one of the great recruiting classes of all time. But so far they have not gelled into their expectations. There have been too many missed blocks, not enough power blocking and most importantly too many penalties.

Andrus Peat has been fairly dominant at left tackle, after there are some serious questions. Josh Garnett has the look, he certainly has the body, but he is a bit inconsistent. Center and right guard have been an issue where you could argue both Graham Shuler and Johnny Caspers are a bit undersized. Against Arizona State, Brendon Austin rotated in every other series with Caspers, a sign that the coaches are looking for more as well.  I see improvement from Kyle Murphy on the right side, but he isn’t at Peat’s level yet. The bottom line is the offensive line needs to play as a cohesive unit to find success. Shuler said a couple of weeks ago you really want at least four out of five linemen to be blocking perfectly to make a run go. Stanford hasn’t had that too many times.

The key though to this line are the penalties though. It’s not to say they are playing bad, but they inevitably seem to take a poorly timed penalty to take away a first down and create a third and long. As suggested earlier, they also need to be more physically dominant in the run game and move the defenses backward.

There is still huge potential from this group and it would be a mistake to give up on them, but to really get this offense cooking again, the OL needs to pick it up a couple of notches. They need to play a complete game start to finish. They haven’t got there yet.

DEFENSIVE LINE:   A

A trend is on the way with these grades. Coming into the season defensive line was a bit of a question mark, if not on the front line then definitely with the depth. The first half of the season has been a resounding A+ for this group. With Henry Anderson drawing a lot of the early season attention, David Parry has turned into an absolute wrecking ball. As the nose tackle Parry has 16 tackles, 3.5 for loses and two sacks. He has occupied blockers allowing the linebackers to do their thing and has consistently created penetration in the backfield. There is no coincidence that when Parry left in the second half that all of a sudden Arizona State found some running lanes in the middle of the line. Stanford needs Parry to not be seriously injured.

Henry Anderson has been great as well. While not having the flash of some of his predecessors, he does what is needed, occupies blockers, creates havoc on his side, gets his hands up in the air to make sure the quarterback can’t see his targets. Thirty-one tackles and a pair of sacks isn’t chopped liver. Anderson is a key cog to the defense.

Aziz Shittu was having a breakout season. He was not as dominant as the above two but he combined with Blake Leuders to provide solid play and a good rotation. Shittu is a big loss. Freshman Harrison Phillips made his debut against Arizona State. He showed some moxie but what can you expect from a true freshman in terms of production? (I did get a chuckle when he faced a double team on his first play from scrimmage and got pushed back a couple of yards. It was one of those “welcome to the big league kid” types of moments.)

LINEBACKERS:  A+

A.J. Tarpley has been Mr. Reliable. Blake Martinez has stepped in for Shayne Skov and only leads the team in tackles. (How about that blitz on Saturday where he blew up the poor running back?)  Noor Davis and Kevin Palma have been very solid in providing a good rotation. On the outside, Kevin Anderson, James Vaughters and Peter Kalambayi just rotate outstanding games.

These guys have done it all. They are sound tacklers. They have the size and the speed. They are great blitzers and pass rushers. The unit plays well together, they rotate perfectly, and have been the key to what has turned into an outstanding defense.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:  A

This unit got a little exposed by Arizona State, but what unit doesn’t get exposed by Jalen Strong? For the most part they have played very admirably. They key in the defensive backfield is good tackling. When they do give up catches, the receivers generally go down quickly. The corners have been near most receivers. They have made their share of pass defenses. The safeties have been great at run support and they can knock the ball away against a pass.

Jordan Richards has been great as an all-around safety. Zach Hoffpauir has been quite a find and gets better each game. Early in the season it appeared he could only hit people. He has developed his coverage game as well. Alex Carter is solid. Wayne Lyons has played well, although he’ll always be remembered for the communication flaw that allowed Notre Dame’s game winning touchdown.

There is no such thing as perfection in a defensive backfield because it is so darn hard. But as a whole this group has done a pretty solid job. Considering they pretty much stuffed the USC and WSU offenses and at least held their own against ASU, I would say job well done overall.

SPECIAL TEAMS:  C+

Jordan Williamson is 7/12 at field goals. That kind of says it all. But I’ll add that while most of the time he is great on kickoffs he still finds that inopportune moment to kick the ball out of bounds, like at Notre Dame. Enough has been written about Williamson’s struggles. We all root for him to emerge with a game winner. He deserves it.

Ben Rhyne averages 38.4 yards per punt. That is very acceptable. The coverage units and return units both do a pretty nice job overall.

COACHING:   B-

Yes, this is the lightning rod that everyone wants to comment on. Overall, I’ll go B- and I do that by giving the defensive staff an A and the offensive staff a C- or D+.   Hey, they can’t pass, catch, run and stop making penalties. The players do have some responsibility.

I think Lance Anderson and his staff have done a great job of taking the reins from Derek Mason and moving forward. They have simplified things slightly according to some of the players and you really can’t argue the results.

As for the offense, much has been written about it, and much will continue to be written including by me. Without going into details on it here, the simple fact is the coaches have to do a better job. The players still need to execute and improve and all those things, but systemic problems start at the top and it is time for the coaches to make some changes. Whether that is in personnel, the playbook, preparation, or all of the above, it is time for the offensive coaches to reboot this team

SUMMARY:

4-3 is uncharted waters for the current generation of Stanford and their fans. While a Pac-12 Championship is still statistically possible, Stanford needs to start from scratch on offense, maintain on defense and not suffer any more key injuries. The fact is that talent wise Stanford is good enough to run the table. Execution wise this team seems destined for a 7-5 record this year.




The Bootleg Top Stories

\r\nFollow\r\n@sportsking\r\n\r\n\r\n

 

\r\n

It\r\n\r\nwas my intention to produce this last week at the midpoint of\r\nthe season. But life got in the way of that so it is time for\r\nthe midterm plus one grades for the Stanford Cardinal. In some\r\nways, based on the 26-10 loss at Arizona State, maybe it was\r\nbetter for the grades to be delayed until after this very\r\neye-opening defeat. With that said, here are my position grades\r\nbased on the first seven games.

\r\n

QUARTERBACK:  C+

\r\n

I\r\ngave Kevin Hogan a C+ at the quarter mark and I thought it was\r\nunfair. At that point with only three games under his belt and\r\ntwo of them decent games against lesser foes I was thinking he\r\nmight deserve more.  Seven\r\ngames in I fear C+ was the right call then and the right call\r\nnow. The simple fact is that in his third year as a starter\r\nHogan has regressed.

\r\n

We\r\n\r\nlive in an era of college football where a 60% completion\r\npercentage is the low bar. For the season Hogan is 62%. But at\r\nNotre Dame he was 50% and at ASU he completed 48%. That just\r\nwon’t get the job done on the road. He has 11 touchdown passes\r\nand four interceptions. But seven of those touchdowns came\r\nagainst Davis and Army. Three more came against Washington State. Against upper echelon defenses, he has one touchdown pass\r\nand that was at Washington.

\r\n

Hogan\r\n\r\nhas allegedly done a nice job of running the offense and getting\r\nthe team into the right plays. But the bottom line is that with\r\na running game that is struggling, and some pretty good\r\nreceivers, he needs to be better than he has been. He needs\r\nbetter pocket awareness as demonstrated in Tempe. He needs\r\nbetter accuracy on the short passes. And in the last few games\r\nhe has missed a few deep throws which has been his calling card.\r\nThe struggles on offense are far from his alone, but in college\r\nfootball a great quarterback can take you a long way. Hogan\r\nneeds to be better to get Stanford over the hump.

\r\n

RUNNING\r\n\r\nBACKS:  B-

\r\n

Honestly,\r\n\r\nI want to give this group an “incomplete.” I just have no idea\r\nwhat we have from these running backs. That seems to be on the\r\ncoaching, which we’ll get to later. What we do know is the\r\nrunning game is not as good as Stanford has seen in a long time.\r\nBut is that the backs fault? The numbers say Stanford rushes for\r\n4.3 yards per carry. Not bad. Remound Wright leads the team with\r\n60 carries and 318 yards for a 5.3 yard average. What’s wrong\r\nwith those numbers? Barry Sanders checks in at 7.1 yards per\r\ncarry.  Sounds like\r\na pretty good running game to me!

\r\n

Of\r\n\r\ncourse then you get into the reality of the situation. Wright\r\nleads the squad on touches per game at 4, 11, DNP, 14, 8, 14 and\r\n9.  Sanders checks\r\nin with seven rushes – two, nine, three, three, seven, and four.\r\nSo is the running game that bad or are the coaches just not\r\ngiving enough opportunities? Kelsey Young has 34 carries. Hogan\r\nhas 49. Christian McCaffrey has nine rushes. Ty Montgomery has\r\n14. There are a lot of cooks in that backfield. The numbers say\r\nthey are doing okay but the eye test says something is missing.\r\nNone of the backs have broken away from the field to earn the\r\ntouches, according to the coaches. Wright seems to get the most\r\nwork because he is best at pass protection and the all-important\r\npower run.

\r\n

I\r\nfeel there are some good players in that backfield. I feel that\r\nwhen given an opportunity, the running backs do decently. Yet\r\nsomehow seven games into the season I really don’t know much for\r\nsure about the backs or the ground attack.

\r\n

RECEIVERS:  B+

\r\n

I\r\nstill like this group. Montgomery is a man on a mission when he\r\ngets the ball. He has 43 catches to lead the club. Devon Cajuste\r\nis a great #2 wide receiver. There is good depth and good hands\r\nbehind the starters. Tight end U appears to be back with the\r\nemergence of Austin Hooper, Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada.  

\r\n

The\r\n\r\ndownside to this group is there are still too many dropped\r\npasses. Montgomery has superstar written all over him but he is\r\nprone to drop a ball here or there. He also doesn’t seem great\r\nat catching the ball in traffic. Get him space and he is a bear\r\nto tackle, but one-on-one versus a corner, he doesn’t come down\r\nthe ball very often. With Hogan’s inconsistencies, this group\r\nneeds to catch the ball when it is delivered well.

\r\n

That\r\n\r\nsaid, there is much to build on here and maybe this is the\r\nportion of the team that Stanford needs to really focus on to\r\nreboot the offense.

\r\n

OFFENSIVE\r\n\r\nLINE:  C+

\r\n

Quarterbacks,\r\n\r\nrunners, catchers, let’s face it, none of it matters if the\r\noffensive line doesn’t block. And the reality is that this line\r\nhas been subpar compared to the high standard that has been set\r\non The Farm the last several years. We blame the running backs\r\nfor not being special, but too often the holes just haven’t been\r\nthere. We get frustrated by the jumbo package that has proved\r\nunsuccessful on short yardage, and the reason is the line is not\r\nwinning the battle in the trenches. We blame Hogan for\r\ninconsistency, but he is under pressure far too often.

\r\n

There\r\n\r\nis some legitimate talent in this offensive line. Certainly they\r\nare heralded as one of the great recruiting classes of all time.\r\nBut so far they have not gelled into their expectations. There\r\nhave been too many missed blocks, not enough power blocking and\r\nmost importantly too many penalties.

\r\n

Andrus Peat has been fairly dominant at left tackle, after there are\r\nsome serious questions. Josh Garnett has the look, he certainly\r\nhas the body, but he is a bit inconsistent. Center and right\r\nguard have been an issue where you could argue both Graham Shuler and Johnny Caspers are a bit undersized. Against Arizona\r\nState, Brendon Austin rotated in every other series with\r\nCaspers, a sign that the coaches are looking for more as well.  I see improvement from\r\nKyle Murphy on the right side, but he isn’t at Peat’s level yet.\r\nThe bottom line is the offensive line needs to play as a\r\ncohesive unit to find success. Shuler said a couple of weeks ago\r\nyou really want at least four out of five linemen to be blocking\r\nperfectly to make a run go. Stanford hasn’t had that too many\r\ntimes.

\r\n

The\r\n\r\nkey though to this line are the penalties though. It’s not to\r\nsay they are playing bad, but they inevitably seem to take a\r\npoorly timed penalty to take away a first down and create a\r\nthird and long. As suggested earlier, they also need to be more\r\nphysically dominant in the run game and move the defenses\r\nbackward.

\r\n

There\r\n\r\nis still huge potential from this group and it would be a\r\nmistake to give up on them, but to really get this offense\r\ncooking again, the OL needs to pick it up a couple of notches.\r\nThey need to play a complete game start to finish. They haven’t\r\ngot there yet.

\r\n

DEFENSIVE\r\n\r\nLINE:   A

\r\n

A\r\ntrend is on the way with these grades. Coming into the season\r\ndefensive line was a bit of a question mark, if not on the front\r\nline then definitely with the depth. The first half of the\r\nseason has been a resounding A+ for this group. With Henry Anderson drawing a lot of the early season attention, David Parry has turned into an absolute wrecking ball. As the nose\r\ntackle Parry has 16 tackles, 3.5 for loses and two sacks. He has\r\noccupied blockers allowing the linebackers to do their thing and\r\nhas consistently created penetration in the backfield. There is\r\nno coincidence that when Parry left in the second half that all\r\nof a sudden Arizona State found some running lanes in the middle\r\nof the line. Stanford needs Parry to not be seriously injured.

\r\n

Henry\r\n\r\nAnderson has been great as well. While not having the flash of\r\nsome of his predecessors, he does what is needed, occupies\r\nblockers, creates havoc on his side, gets his hands up in the\r\nair to make sure the quarterback can’t see his targets.\r\nThirty-one tackles and a pair of sacks isn’t chopped liver.\r\nAnderson is a key cog to the defense.

\r\n

Aziz Shittu was having a breakout season. He was not as dominant as\r\nthe above two but he combined with Blake Leuders to provide\r\nsolid play and a good rotation. Shittu is a big loss. Freshman\r\nHarrison Phillips made his debut against Arizona State. He\r\nshowed some moxie but what can you expect from a true freshman\r\nin terms of production? (I did get a chuckle when he faced a\r\ndouble team on his first play from scrimmage and got pushed back\r\na couple of yards. It was one of those “welcome to the big\r\nleague kid” types of moments.)

\r\n

LINEBACKERS:  A+

\r\n

A.J. Tarpley has been Mr. Reliable. Blake Martinez has stepped in for\r\nShayne Skov and only leads the team in tackles. (How about that\r\nblitz on Saturday where he blew up the poor running back?)  Noor Davis and Kevin Palma have been very solid in providing a good rotation. On the\r\noutside, Kevin Anderson, James Vaughters and Peter Kalambayi\r\njust rotate outstanding games.

\r\n

These\r\n\r\nguys have done it all. They are sound tacklers. They have the\r\nsize and the speed. They are great blitzers and pass rushers.\r\nThe unit plays well together, they rotate perfectly, and have\r\nbeen the key to what has turned into an outstanding defense.

\r\n

DEFENSIVE\r\n\r\nBACKS:  A

\r\n

This\r\n\r\nunit got a little exposed by Arizona State, but what unit\r\ndoesn’t get exposed by Jalen Strong? For the most part they have\r\nplayed very admirably. They key in the defensive backfield is\r\ngood tackling. When they do give up catches, the receivers\r\ngenerally go down quickly. The corners have been near most\r\nreceivers. They have made their share of pass defenses. The\r\nsafeties have been great at run support and they can knock the\r\nball away against a pass.

\r\n

Jordan Richards has been great as an all-around safety. Zach Hoffpauir\r\nhas been quite a find and gets better each game. Early in the\r\nseason it appeared he could only hit people. He has developed\r\nhis coverage game as well. Alex Carter is solid. Wayne Lyons has\r\nplayed well, although he’ll always be remembered for the\r\ncommunication flaw that allowed Notre Dame’s game winning\r\ntouchdown.

\r\n

There\r\n\r\nis no such thing as perfection in a defensive backfield because\r\nit is so darn hard. But as a whole this group has done a pretty\r\nsolid job. Considering they pretty much stuffed the USC and WSU\r\noffenses and at least held their own against ASU, I would say\r\njob well done overall.

\r\n

SPECIAL\r\n\r\nTEAMS:  C+

\r\n

Jordan Williamson is 7/12 at field goals. That kind of says it all. But\r\nI’ll add that while most of the time he is great on kickoffs he\r\nstill finds that inopportune moment to kick the ball out of\r\nbounds, like at Notre Dame. Enough has been written about\r\nWilliamson’s struggles. We all root for him to emerge with a\r\ngame winner. He deserves it.

\r\n

Ben\r\n\r\nRhyne averages 38.4 yards per punt. That is very acceptable. The\r\ncoverage units and return units both do a pretty nice job\r\noverall.

\r\n

COACHING:   B-

\r\n

Yes,\r\n\r\nthis is the lightning rod that everyone wants to comment on.\r\nOverall, I’ll go B- and I do that by giving the defensive staff\r\nan A and the offensive staff a C- or D+.   Hey, they can’t\r\npass, catch, run and stop making penalties. The players do have\r\nsome responsibility.

\r\n

I\r\nthink Lance Anderson and his staff have done a great job of\r\ntaking the reins from Derek Mason and moving forward. They have\r\nsimplified things slightly according to some of the players and\r\nyou really can’t argue the results.

\r\n

As\r\n\r\nfor the offense, much has been written about it, and much will\r\ncontinue to be written including by me. Without going into\r\ndetails on it here, the simple fact is the coaches have to do a\r\nbetter job. The players still need to execute and improve and\r\nall those things, but systemic problems start at the top and it\r\nis time for the coaches to make some changes. Whether that is in\r\npersonnel, the playbook, preparation, or all of the above, it is\r\ntime for the offensive coaches to reboot this team

\r\n

SUMMARY:

\r\n

4-3\r\n\r\nis uncharted waters for the current generation of Stanford and\r\ntheir fans. While a Pac-12 Championship is still statistically\r\npossible, Stanford needs to start from scratch on offense,\r\nmaintain on defense and not suffer any more key injuries. The\r\nfact is that talent wise Stanford is good enough to run the\r\ntable. Execution wise this team seems destined for a 7-5 record\r\nthis year.

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nTweet\r\n\r\n
\r\n
","mobileBody":" Follow @sportsking

 

It was my intention to produce this last week at the midpoint of the season. But life got in the way of that so it is time for the midterm plus one grades for the Stanford Cardinal. In some ways, based on the 26-10 loss at Arizona State, maybe it was better for the grades to be delayed until after this very eye-opening defeat. With that said, here are my position grades based on the first seven games.

QUARTERBACK:  C+

I gave Kevin Hogan a C+ at the quarter mark and I thought it was unfair. At that point with only three games under his belt and two of them decent games against lesser foes I was thinking he might deserve more.  Seven games in I fear C+ was the right call then and the right call now. The simple fact is that in his third year as a starter Hogan has regressed.

We live in an era of college football where a 60% completion percentage is the low bar. For the season Hogan is 62%. But at Notre Dame he was 50% and at ASU he completed 48%. That just won’t get the job done on the road. He has 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions. But seven of those touchdowns came against Davis and Army. Three more came against Washington State. Against upper echelon defenses, he has one touchdown pass and that was at Washington.

Hogan has allegedly done a nice job of running the offense and getting the team into the right plays. But the bottom line is that with a running game that is struggling, and some pretty good receivers, he needs to be better than he has been. He needs better pocket awareness as demonstrated in Tempe. He needs better accuracy on the short passes. And in the last few games he has missed a few deep throws which has been his calling card. The struggles on offense are far from his alone, but in college football a great quarterback can take you a long way. Hogan needs to be better to get Stanford over the hump.

RUNNING BACKS:  B-

Honestly, I want to give this group an “incomplete.” I just have no idea what we have from these running backs. That seems to be on the coaching, which we’ll get to later. What we do know is the running game is not as good as Stanford has seen in a long time. But is that the backs fault? The numbers say Stanford rushes for 4.3 yards per carry. Not bad. Remound Wright leads the team with 60 carries and 318 yards for a 5.3 yard average. What’s wrong with those numbers? Barry Sanders checks in at 7.1 yards per carry.  Sounds like a pretty good running game to me!

Of course then you get into the reality of the situation. Wright leads the squad on touches per game at 4, 11, DNP, 14, 8, 14 and 9.  Sanders checks in with seven rushes – two, nine, three, three, seven, and four. So is the running game that bad or are the coaches just not giving enough opportunities? Kelsey Young has 34 carries. Hogan has 49. Christian McCaffrey has nine rushes. Ty Montgomery has 14. There are a lot of cooks in that backfield. The numbers say they are doing okay but the eye test says something is missing. None of the backs have broken away from the field to earn the touches, according to the coaches. Wright seems to get the most work because he is best at pass protection and the all-important power run.

I feel there are some good players in that backfield. I feel that when given an opportunity, the running backs do decently. Yet somehow seven games into the season I really don’t know much for sure about the backs or the ground attack.

RECEIVERS:  B+

I still like this group. Montgomery is a man on a mission when he gets the ball. He has 43 catches to lead the club. Devon Cajuste is a great #2 wide receiver. There is good depth and good hands behind the starters. Tight end U appears to be back with the emergence of Austin Hooper, Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada.  

The downside to this group is there are still too many dropped passes. Montgomery has superstar written all over him but he is prone to drop a ball here or there. He also doesn’t seem great at catching the ball in traffic. Get him space and he is a bear to tackle, but one-on-one versus a corner, he doesn’t come down the ball very often. With Hogan’s inconsistencies, this group needs to catch the ball when it is delivered well.

That said, there is much to build on here and maybe this is the portion of the team that Stanford needs to really focus on to reboot the offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE:  C+

Quarterbacks, runners, catchers, let’s face it, none of it matters if the offensive line doesn’t block. And the reality is that this line has been subpar compared to the high standard that has been set on The Farm the last several years. We blame the running backs for not being special, but too often the holes just haven’t been there. We get frustrated by the jumbo package that has proved unsuccessful on short yardage, and the reason is the line is not winning the battle in the trenches. We blame Hogan for inconsistency, but he is under pressure far too often.

There is some legitimate talent in this offensive line. Certainly they are heralded as one of the great recruiting classes of all time. But so far they have not gelled into their expectations. There have been too many missed blocks, not enough power blocking and most importantly too many penalties.

Andrus Peat has been fairly dominant at left tackle, after there are some serious questions. Josh Garnett has the look, he certainly has the body, but he is a bit inconsistent. Center and right guard have been an issue where you could argue both Graham Shuler and Johnny Caspers are a bit undersized. Against Arizona State, Brendon Austin rotated in every other series with Caspers, a sign that the coaches are looking for more as well.  I see improvement from Kyle Murphy on the right side, but he isn’t at Peat’s level yet. The bottom line is the offensive line needs to play as a cohesive unit to find success. Shuler said a couple of weeks ago you really want at least four out of five linemen to be blocking perfectly to make a run go. Stanford hasn’t had that too many times.

The key though to this line are the penalties though. It’s not to say they are playing bad, but they inevitably seem to take a poorly timed penalty to take away a first down and create a third and long. As suggested earlier, they also need to be more physically dominant in the run game and move the defenses backward.

There is still huge potential from this group and it would be a mistake to give up on them, but to really get this offense cooking again, the OL needs to pick it up a couple of notches. They need to play a complete game start to finish. They haven’t got there yet.

DEFENSIVE LINE:   A

A trend is on the way with these grades. Coming into the season defensive line was a bit of a question mark, if not on the front line then definitely with the depth. The first half of the season has been a resounding A+ for this group. With Henry Anderson drawing a lot of the early season attention, David Parry has turned into an absolute wrecking ball. As the nose tackle Parry has 16 tackles, 3.5 for loses and two sacks. He has occupied blockers allowing the linebackers to do their thing and has consistently created penetration in the backfield. There is no coincidence that when Parry left in the second half that all of a sudden Arizona State found some running lanes in the middle of the line. Stanford needs Parry to not be seriously injured.

Henry Anderson has been great as well. While not having the flash of some of his predecessors, he does what is needed, occupies blockers, creates havoc on his side, gets his hands up in the air to make sure the quarterback can’t see his targets. Thirty-one tackles and a pair of sacks isn’t chopped liver. Anderson is a key cog to the defense.

Aziz Shittu was having a breakout season. He was not as dominant as the above two but he combined with Blake Leuders to provide solid play and a good rotation. Shittu is a big loss. Freshman Harrison Phillips made his debut against Arizona State. He showed some moxie but what can you expect from a true freshman in terms of production? (I did get a chuckle when he faced a double team on his first play from scrimmage and got pushed back a couple of yards. It was one of those “welcome to the big league kid” types of moments.)

LINEBACKERS:  A+

A.J. Tarpley has been Mr. Reliable. Blake Martinez has stepped in for Shayne Skov and only leads the team in tackles. (How about that blitz on Saturday where he blew up the poor running back?)  Noor Davis and Kevin Palma have been very solid in providing a good rotation. On the outside, Kevin Anderson, James Vaughters and Peter Kalambayi just rotate outstanding games.

These guys have done it all. They are sound tacklers. They have the size and the speed. They are great blitzers and pass rushers. The unit plays well together, they rotate perfectly, and have been the key to what has turned into an outstanding defense.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:  A

This unit got a little exposed by Arizona State, but what unit doesn’t get exposed by Jalen Strong? For the most part they have played very admirably. They key in the defensive backfield is good tackling. When they do give up catches, the receivers generally go down quickly. The corners have been near most receivers. They have made their share of pass defenses. The safeties have been great at run support and they can knock the ball away against a pass.

Jordan Richards has been great as an all-around safety. Zach Hoffpauir has been quite a find and gets better each game. Early in the season it appeared he could only hit people. He has developed his coverage game as well. Alex Carter is solid. Wayne Lyons has played well, although he’ll always be remembered for the communication flaw that allowed Notre Dame’s game winning touchdown.

There is no such thing as perfection in a defensive backfield because it is so darn hard. But as a whole this group has done a pretty solid job. Considering they pretty much stuffed the USC and WSU offenses and at least held their own against ASU, I would say job well done overall.

SPECIAL TEAMS:  C+

Jordan Williamson is 7/12 at field goals. That kind of says it all. But I’ll add that while most of the time he is great on kickoffs he still finds that inopportune moment to kick the ball out of bounds, like at Notre Dame. Enough has been written about Williamson’s struggles. We all root for him to emerge with a game winner. He deserves it.

Ben Rhyne averages 38.4 yards per punt. That is very acceptable. The coverage units and return units both do a pretty nice job overall.

COACHING:   B-

Yes, this is the lightning rod that everyone wants to comment on. Overall, I’ll go B- and I do that by giving the defensive staff an A and the offensive staff a C- or D+.   Hey, they can’t pass, catch, run and stop making penalties. The players do have some responsibility.

I think Lance Anderson and his staff have done a great job of taking the reins from Derek Mason and moving forward. They have simplified things slightly according to some of the players and you really can’t argue the results.

As for the offense, much has been written about it, and much will continue to be written including by me. Without going into details on it here, the simple fact is the coaches have to do a better job. The players still need to execute and improve and all those things, but systemic problems start at the top and it is time for the coaches to make some changes. Whether that is in personnel, the playbook, preparation, or all of the above, it is time for the offensive coaches to reboot this team

SUMMARY:

4-3 is uncharted waters for the current generation of Stanford and their fans. While a Pac-12 Championship is still statistically possible, Stanford needs to start from scratch on offense, maintain on defense and not suffer any more key injuries. The fact is that talent wise Stanford is good enough to run the table. Execution wise this team seems destined for a 7-5 record this year.

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